Political Suicide U.S. Leftists Want to Cut Prison Population in Half

The death of African-American man George Floyd sparked riots. Photo shows protesters setting a building on fire on May 29, 2020. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In a March 31 article on the Law Officer website, Leonard Adam Sipes, a retired senior crime prevention specialist at the Justice Department, noted that data from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that most prisoners serve less than two years and violent offenders less than three. Violent offenders serve less than three years.

Citing data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sipes said that 58 percent of state male prisoners are currently serving time for violent crimes, and the percentage of those serving time for violent crimes would be even higher if the prisoners’ criminal histories were included. This is the reason why the incarceration rate in the United States is so high, with high rates of violent crime.

Federal data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics also show that 68 percent of inmates are arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and 77 percent are rearrested within five years. These re-incarcerations were for new crimes and not for technical reasons (e.g., bail violations).

Data from the 44-state National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP) put the average length of time served by federal prisoners released in 2018 at 2.7 years from the date of initial admission to the date of initial release. By crime type, the average time was 17.5 years for murder, 7.2 years for rape, 17 months for drug trafficking, and 9 months for drug possession. Many are released without serving their full sentences.

Sipes said there is nothing wrong with making sure offenders serve their sentences for the right reasons, and anyone who believes in an appropriate sentence. The data show that most offenders serve time in prison for the right reasons, based on their criminal history and the seriousness of their crimes. But miraculously, most prisoners are released in less than two years, and those who commit more egregious and violent crimes are released within three years. The data shows that those who stay longer are serving sentences that could not be shorter due to the severity of their crimes and the seriousness of their criminal records.

Thus Sipes questions that Biden will not be able to significantly reduce the prison population without releasing violent criminals. If Biden makes good on his campaign promise to cut the prison population in half, what is the impact on public safety? It is foreseeable that 700,000 criminals, most of them violent, would be put off the streets from prison. This is simply too dangerous for the public, Sipes said, because the actual impact of this could be 3.5 million additional crimes (only a small fraction of which are caught in flagrante delicto), “which is political suicide.”